I am very grateful to our Holy Father Pope Francis for his deep and thoughtful teaching on marriage and family life which he has presented to us in his Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). It is quite obvious that Pope Francis has reflected carefully and prayed over the input and discussions that took place during the last two Synods of Bishops dedicated to this vitally important topic.

While “Amoris Laetitia” does not contain any change in the Catholic Church’s teaching or discipline regarding marriage and family life, Pope Francis does seek to orient the Church toward a new and invigorated pastoral approach, especially toward those in difficult and wounded situations. For this we can all be grateful. He once again uses the image of the Church as a “field hospital”, seeking to help bind up the wounds of couples and families in need of special care.

At the same time, the Holy Father holds up before us the beauty and dignity of marriage and family life as it comes to us from the hand of our Creator and as revealed in Sacred Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church. “Amoris Laetitia” must be read within this context, taking into account especially the papal teaching of recent Popes, especially St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. This continuity is essential to a proper reading and understanding of this contribution of Pope Francis.

The Exhortation is long and will take time for us to read, reflect upon and put into practice. In fact, Pope Francis himself asks us to read it “patiently and carefully,” and not in a rushed manner. At some point in the not too distant future I hope to provide further guidance on its teaching and application here in the Archdiocese of Portland. In the meantime, I hope married couples and families will find hope and encouragement in our Holy Father’s beautiful words.